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The Cats Guide To Grief

A tribute to Prissie

Prissie was one of three platinum kittens born to our beautiful platinum Burmese, Misty. When Prissie was only a few weeks old, she developed pneumonia. Oddly enough, she was the only one of the three kittens to get sick. Because she was so ill, she received a lot of extra attention from my elderly parents especially my father, who often held her on his chest for hours. My parents became so attached to Prissie that she became a "keeper" as they couldn't bear to sell her.

Prissie spent many happy years as a lap cat with my parents. My fondest memories of her are how much she loved to get in clothes drawers and sleep. She thought they made excellent beds. Whenever I went on vacation (at the time I lived with my parents), mama always said that Prissie waited by my door for my return...that she was "my cat."

As my parents aged, they decided to move from their house to a condo, and I bought a house for myself. Of course, Misty, Prissie, and Holly, another of Misty's daughters, moved to the condo with them. They seemed to adjust to their smaller domain with no problem as a heating pad bed was established for them in front of the fireplace. The three spent many long hours socially engaged in grooming and sleeping together. Of course, they played together as well and sat laps with my parents at night watching television.

One day in April of 1998 my parents told me that Prissie was ill. She had been to the vet because she wasn't eating. The vet had prescribed antibiotics for her. Being a dutiful daughter, I promptly began to administer fluid to keep Prissie hydrated, and I bought stew meat to cut into small pieces to feed her. Having been a cat breeder for years I knew exactly how to give fluid, which is the most important part to enable a sick cat to live. The meat was cut in tiny pieces and poked down the unwilling Prissie's mouth. She was determined to die, and I was determined to save her. Every day I came over in the morning to make Prissie eat and at night I came again for the same purpose. After 3 or 4 days, I could see it was of no use. I told my parents that they should take Prissie back to the vet.

The vet examined Prissie again and suggested that exploratory surgery be done on Prissie. My parents were horrified at the thought of opening Prissie up, and asked if there were not another way of treating the unknown problem. The vet said the only other thing that could be done is to try another antibiotic. So, my parents came home with new antibiotics, and I was furious that they had not followed the suggestion of the vet. But, it was Thursday and there was nothing to be done.

On Sat. Prissie looked much worse. Her once sleek fur was fluffed in the way that sick cats show the world how badly they feel. Her once bright eyes were glazed and dull, and she looked near death to me. When I came to feed her, I told my parents that something had to be done. I called the vet, and, being a fine, dedicated professional, he agreed to meet me at his clinic although it was Sat. He was a bit put out, but he and my parents had enjoyed a lot of intereaction during the years they took their cats to his clinic.

He knew them well, and how much this cat meant to them. I met the vet, and we readied the cat for surgery. The good doctor was insistent that I aid him with the surgery although my squeamish stomach was saying, "no." There was no one else to do it, so I did my duty. An incision was made and it was immediately plain to see what the cause of the problem was. A long parcel of thread extended from Prissie's stomach into her intestine. It must have been at least four foot of fine thread woven throughout her intestine. Consequently many cuts were necessary to remove the thread winding about the intestines and cutting off the flow of wastes and blood. Prissie was so very weak, and I asked the vet to put her to sleep, but he wouldn't because he felt we should "give her a chance."

Following the surgery, I took her home to my parents, and the struggle between Prissie's wish to fade away and my wish that she should live intensified. I hated having to poke her with needles for fluid and make her eat when her only desire was to die. At night in my own bed, I laid awake angry that my parents had waited so long until she was too weak to fight very hard. I was also ill with myself that I hadn't attended to her signs more closely and forced a resolution soon after her sickness began.

Prissie lived for two days following the surgery with my constant proding, but Monday it looked like the Grim Reaper was winning. I found her sitting on the rug in the kitchen (actually more like she was crouched awaiting the leap to heaven) with her fur fluffed up and the look of death on her. Her eyes were fixed on a distant world, and I scooped her up and made the last trip to the vet. "She's not going to make it. Can't you put her down," I said. "Let her die with dignity." The vet considered my parents waiting at home for the outcome and said, "Let me keep her here. If she dies, I won't charge you for the stay." I left her then, alive-against my better judgement in the old vet's care.

The following day the vet called my parents to tell them that Prissie had passed away during the night. I was distraught that she had died alone during the night in a strange place. The worst of the worst for a cat...to die in a strange place. The vet wanted to know if we would like her buried on his farm. My parents said, "Yes, just let her be buried there as we have no place to bury her here."

I had no say in her botched treatment. I was, however, determined that even if everything had been done wrong in her diagnosis and in her long stint of suffering leading to her death, that she would have a proper burial. I thought that it was necessary to right the wrong done to her to by at least not disgarding her at her death. I don't know that Prissie would have cared, but I did. Somehow it mattered extremely much to me that she be buried in a grave by family. I drove the necessary twenty miles to pick her limp body up, and gave up a corner of my yard for her burial spot. I can't say why it mattered so much to me. Many of my cats lay buried on the farm, but maybe it was because each of them died in their time without such a terrible scenario.

Prissie had fought a heroic battle to live for weeks in that condition, and so she was buried with honor by her well meaning tormentor. Prissie lies in my backyard. This story is a testimony to what thread can do to a beautiful and loving companion cat. We can only assume that the thread came to her from clothes that had been taken to the seamstress to be altered. When Prissie licked the thread and swallowed the end of the long piece of thread, it was the beginning of her end. The more she licked the thread, the more of it she swallowed ultimately ending in her demise. I hope for those who read this, it will be a warning to rid your house of loose threads and items that could provide such long threads when chewed or licked.

Perhaps Prissie's death will help to save a life, and help to justify such a useless death.

Shirley

   


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